Schotten Totten has quickly become my favorite quick game to play with my wife. It really packs a lot of meaty fun into a short experience.
Schotten Totten is a conceptually simple card game for two players. Each player is completing three card poker hands on their side of nine boundary stones. A better poker hand will claim the stone. The first player to claim five stones or three in a row is the winner. There are additionally some tactics cards that can be used as a variant. These tactics cards allow a player to break the rules in some manner (Best of four card poker hands, wild cards, etc.) Most people will agree that it is fun to play both with and without the tactics cards.
1. Analysis Paralysis / Downtime
It is only a two player game, but even so the downtime is minimal. There are a variety of choices to be made on each turn, but only a handful of logical ones. You are likely trying to choose one of three cards in your hand to play on one of two stones. When you add the tactics cards to the game downtime and analysis paralysis do increase noticeably.
2. Multiplayer Solitaire / Player Interaction / Competitive / Casual / Skill / Luck
Schotten Totten is all about player interaction. This is really a simplified war game with your opponent's destruction as your goal. It does an absolutely great job of balancing skill and luck to be able to appeal to both the competitive and casual crowd. Calculating the probability of completing any given hand with the cards you currently have is quite possible. At the same time, someone that just plays from the gut is going to win their fair share of games.
3. Runaway Leader / Effective Elimination / Catch-Up Mechanics / Score Obfuscation
The random deal of the cards can give one player a set of unbeatable combinations, but it doesn't happen very often. The ability to win by claiming any three stones in a row does a really good job of keeping everyone in the game and obscuring the score. It's not uncommon for one player to dominate almost all of the stones while their opponent is holding out hope to edge out three stones in a row. And in the end, I can't say for certain which win condition has been more utilized.
4. Fiddliness / Elegance
The base game without the tactics cards is really an elegant game. The rules are simple but the game play is deep. You really will want to keep coming back for more. The tactics cards do add a extra layer of complication and also contribute to an extra bit of fiddliness. If you don't play with the tactics cards often, it can be quite fiddly to keep track of what all they do.
5. Theme / Enjoyment
The theme of Schotten Totten is pretty darn thin. It was easily re-themed as "Battle Line" a few years after it was created. At the same time though, there is a very strong sense of conflict and warfare built into the mechanics. The artwork on Schotten Totten is exceptionally cute and does add to the enjoyment of the game.
6. Tactical / Strategic
The short play time of Schotten Totten really leans it more to the tactical camp. I can still see strategic aspects to it though. There is plenty of room for great tactical maneuvers in the advanced claiming of stones (If you can prove your opponent can't beat your poker hand, then you can claim the stone and prevent them from dropping unwanted cards on it.) Also doing some quick calculations on when to go for multiple straight flushes versus splitting them into some known three of a kinds. The main strategic decisions would be keeping an overall view of the battlefield and what stones have already been captured. It is vital to realize when you should be concentrating on winning a majority of the stones versus three in a row.
Schotten Totten is really just a great two player experience. If you ever find yourself playing two player games then I really recommend picking this one up. A lot of people recommend Lost Cities to play with your wife, but I think Schotten Totten can be a very complimentary experience.